Tips for travel planning with seniors

By Carmen Costantino
August 5, 2011

As I’m desperately trying to meet deadline, my Mom is happily sitting on my couch reading my previous columns on her new iPad.

What she doesn’t know is that I’m currently writing about her physical challenges (she is in denial about her own aging, which she would deny if you asked her!) and holiday travelling.

Thankfully, she isn’t quite savvy enough on her own to navigate her way to my website to read future columns!

Mom is getting ready to fly back to Toronto and although it isn’t the longest fight in the world, it still works out to be about a 12-hour day including layovers, flight time and getting to and from airports.

My mom doesn’t complain about some of her physical discomforts — a sore knee aggravated by tight spaces, walking long distances, having to stand for lengthy periods and uneven surfaces; edema in her upper and lower leg due to previous radiation treatments for cancer and a shoulder prone to dislocation.

Travelling certainly creates some discomfort and often exasperates her symptoms.

It’s unlikely that Mom will take any advice from her personalized gerontologist a.k.a. youngest daughter to ensure her trip back is as comfortable as possible; perhaps you will take away some handy tips before your next trip.

Make friends with reality:

Be very clear with your travel agent, transportation company (plane, cruise, train, bus) and accommodation provider about your limitations.

This is not the time to be overconfident or minimize your health, mental or mobility challenges. Not all disabilities or challenges are evident, and giving specific details allows for better service.

Research your destination:

Take the time to become familiar with climate and ease-of-access places to go and see. Most cities are investing in age-friendly communities and will often provide information on accessible attractions. It’s also handy to find out about medical and health facilities at your final destination.

Medications:

Ask how medications are handled at security checkpoints and what documentation you need to bring. For example, most transportation providers request that you keep all medications in their original containers and some over the counter products from Canadian require prescriptions in other countries, including the United States. Keep all information about your prescriptions with other documentation close at hand.

Pack an extra supply of medication. If you use oxygen, airlines have rules about how they handle it and may not allow yours on board.

Assistive devices:

If you use a wheelchair or other mobility aids, let your transportation company know ahead of time to allow for proper preparations. You may need to transfer to a boarding wheelchair somewhere between check-in and boarding, and you can ask to delay this as long as possible.

Ask how your mobility aid will be secured and stored on board. If you have a hearing aid, be sure to carry extra batteries, and always carry an extra set of glasses as well as the prescription for replacement.

Best bit of advice:

Give travel and accommodation providers at least 72 hours of advanced notice to ensure you get the help you need. You may also want a friend or family member to assist you through the terminal.

Ask ahead of time if you can get a temporary pass to get your escort through the secure zone to the boarding area.

Download the take charge of your travel:

A Guide for Persons with Disabilities at http://www.otc-cta.gc.ca/eng/take-charge. We’ve had excellent feedback about this guide and one of main takeaways is to use the service by calling 1-888-222-2592 or by TTY at 1-800-669-5575. Or send an e-mail at info@otc-cta.gc.ca and they’ll point you in the right direction.

 

Wendy Johnstone is a gerontologist and is the founder of Keystone Eldercare Planning. Her column runs in the Comox Valley Record every second Friday.

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“You are amazing! What I tried to do in 2 months, you did in 1 week. You’ve helped us navigate the system, made sense of Mom’s disease, and gave back her independence and control. Thank you for making such a difference in Mom’s life and giving us, her family, complete peace of mind.”

– Mike G., Nanaimo, BC

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